OMA has completed the new School of Science and Sport at Brighton College, with an allocated gridded structure that allows students to walk in endless hallways.
The new School of Science and Sport for Brighton College, designed by OMA / Ellen van Loon, was inaugurated in an official ceremony by Sir Nicholas Soames on January 9th 2020, in the presence of Simon Smits, the Dutch ambassador to the UK, Headmaster Richard Cairns, and Ellen van Loon.
OMA was awarded the project after a competition organised in 2013, when Brighton College needed to expand the Science School in terms of number of labs, and wanted a state-of-the-art sporting facility to foster talent and physical wellbeing. In the original competition brief, the Sports Centre and Science Department were presented as two separate projects. After a revised brief in 2013, and a second competition phase in 2014, planning approval was acquired in 2015 and construction started in 2017.
Ellen van Loon said: “We wanted to give Brighton College a building that continues to deliver more than strictly required, expanding the traditional definition of educational architecture. Generous spaces outside of classrooms become the pupils’ domain for self-directed activity and collaboration.”
The new School for Sports and Science defies the conventional character of educational buildings – one of endless empty hallways and imposed silence – and instead, combines the two departments to create a vibrant building with lively spaces where activities are not necessarily dictated by a school timetable.
Observing that processes of learning take place outside as much as inside of the classroom, the design articulates a new idea of educational space bolstering interaction and exchange.
Stimulating social communications between the students was central to OMA’s concept, in which generous and open break-out space outside of the classrooms create room for informal interaction and private studying. Level shifts, grand staircases and glass visually connect the activities taking place in both departments and trigger unexpected exchanges between different disciplines.
The elongated structure is divided into grids, while one of the volumes is slightly sloping down and the other volumes overlap onto it, and individual components of the building are exposed to each other; an indoor running track on the ground floor is visible from upper levels, classrooms have floor to ceiling windows, and even fume hoods in the chemistry classrooms are made transparent – enabling people walking down the hallway to witness ongoing experiments.
Headmaster Richard Cairns said: “My concern as an educator has always been the silo mentality of academic institutions so that subject specialists in one area don’t talk to those in another. My challenge to Ellen was to create a building where different academic disciplines were interwoven into the same building. I really wanted to be able to stand on the sports field outside and see a beehive of different activities going on, wonderfully interconnected and alive. This Ellen delivered in spades.”
Established in 1845, Brighton College is a private, co-ed boarding and day school in Brighton, England, and over the years has cemented its reputation as one of Britain’s leading schools and was named the top independent school by the Sunday Times. The campus is comprised of two areas: a historical quadrangle, composed of Grade II listed buildings designed by Sir Gilbert Scott and Sir Thomas Jackson in the 19th century; and the playing field lined with buildings from the 1970s and 1980s, the site of the new building.
Brighton College is the first built school for secondary education by OMA. It follows the educational projects Lab City CentraleSupélec (2017), Millstein Hall (2011) and the IIT McCormick Tribune Campus Center (2003).
OMA is an international practice operating within the traditional boundaries of architecture and urbanism. AMO, a research and design studio, applies architectural thinking to domains beyond. To find out more, visit https://oma.eu/office